It’s The Perfect Time To Start Pruning

It’s almost that time of year – time to get outside and start your landscaping work. It’s hard to believe you can start landscaping when you look outside and see all the snow, but in reality it is the perfect time to start your pruning.

Correct pruning is an essential maintenance practice for trees and shrubs in the home landscape – yet many homeowners are very apprehensive to make that first cut. Pruning is not difficult if you understand the basics: why, when and how to prune.

First it’s important to know what pruning is and why do it. Pruning is simply the removal of plant parts that are not required, are no longer effective or are of no use to the plant. It is necessary in order to improve the health, value or beauty of the plant as well as to prevent damage to life and property.

As Master Gardeners, one of the most asked about topics is when to prune. Generally speaking, the best time of year to prune is now, late winter to early spring, before the season’s growth begins.

The exceptions to this are the spring-flowering shrubs that bloom on last year’s growth, such as lilac, forsythia and rhododendrons. Pruning of these should be done immediately after bloom. The only time pruning should be done in summer is to remove dead, diseased or damaged limbs.

Here are a few fun sayings to help you remember when to prune:

How to prune correctly is another hot topic and the foremost one preventing homeowners from even starting. Using the correct tools for the size of the job is key to pruning as well as using clean and sharp tools. The main thing to remember when cutting is to remove as much of the branch as possible without damaging the trunk or stem.

The size of the limb you are removing will determine the type of cut you do. Small branches that are easily cut in one snip should be cut at a 45-degree angle just above an active bud. Larger branches may require the three-cut method to prevent injury.

Don’t let the fear of making a wrong cut stop you from pruning. The best way to learn how to prune is practice. Pick up a dead branch and cut away, and before you know it you will be a pruning all-star; your trees and shrubs will be the envy of everyone on your block.

For more information and diagrams on pruning techniques, please see the publications listed at the end of this article. Better yet, if you have always wanted to prune your trees and shrubs but have been hesitant to start, the Master Gardeners are hosting a free pruning workshop on Saturday, Feb. 16, from 9-11 a.m. at the Frank Bratt Ag Center in Jamestown to help ease your fears. Certified arborist Andy Post will help you build your pruning skills and answer any questions you have. He is the owner of A.P. Tree Care and specializes in enhancing tree preservation and maintenance practices.

Space is limited; registration is required by calling or emailing Betsy Burgeson at 664-9502, ext. 204 or “”>

For more information on pruning, please see the following publications:

“Shrub Pruning Calendar” by Virginia Cooperative Extension:

“Pruning Ornamental Trees and Shrubs” by Purdue University Cooperative Extension:

“Pruning: An illustrated Guide to Pruning Ornamental Trees & Shrubs” found on the following website:

The mission of the Chautauqua County Master Gardener Program is to educate and serve the community, utilizing university and research-based horticultural information. Volunteers are from the community who have successfully completed 50-plus hours of Cornell-approved training and volunteer a minimum of 50 hours per year.

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